It was 1984 when Alex Trebek began hosting the hit game show, Jeopardy!. For those scoring at home, that was thirty-five years ago.
Then, earlier in 2019, the now 79-year-old Trebek revealed he was battling stage IV pancreatic cancer. The news came as a shock to fans of the show, and fans of Trebek. But he stated publicly that he planned to fight it, all while holding strong to his hosting duties. Now, in his thirty-sixth season, Trebek is doing just that.
But Alex has become more acutely aware of his body’s failings of late. He sat down for a rather blunt interview with Lisa Laflamme, CTV’s Chief Anchor and Senior Editor, to discuss his current condition, his philanthropic work, and making a difference in the world for good. He also discusses death. He knows it could be imminent, and yet, he’s not afraid, he says.
“I’m 79-years-old, so, I’ve lived a good life, a full life, and I’m nearing the end of that life, I know that. I’m not gonna delude myself. So, if it happens, it happens. And, why should I be afraid of it?”
In late May, Trebek revealed that some of the tumors had shrunk by more than fifty percent. He believed he was nearing remission. That optimism was premature. This September he announced he would be undergoing another round of chemotherapy treatment.
Having gone so public with all of this, at times, is among Trebek’s regrets.
“I have become, in many ways, the spokesperson for pancreatic cancer… A lot of people are coming to me and looking for help, reassurance. And that’s tough…. To be the inspiration for a lot of people makes me feel good, but it does place a responsibility on me that I feel I’m not deserving of.”
Trebek recognizes that his skills have started to diminish. He says he tells the producers this all the time, informing them when he’s slurring his words, even if he’s the only one who notices. He says he’s not as bothered by it just yet because everyone around him assures him things are still OK. The day they are no longer able to tell him ‘It’s OK’ will be the day he bids farewell to the show he loves.
If the time he has left is short, what does he plan to do with it?
“I want to make a difference in the lives of people. And I can do that through charitable donations. I can do that through charitable work. And I can do that, hopefully, by speaking out against some of the problems—political, social, cultural—that I see in societies around the world. And if it’s possible for me to make a difference, then, why don’t I do it.”
The news of Trebek’s condition has hit home with Americans and Canadians alike. The man is one of the more beloved celebrities of our time. Over the course of his long career, the Canadian-born naturalized American citizen has had very few controversies, save for his history-altering mustache shaving incident of 2001. He’s not made many enemies either, Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery notwithstanding.
You can watch the full interview below.